COMICS: John Reviews “Dynamo 5 Vol. 1” by Jay Faerber and M.A. Asrar

A Post-Nuclear Family

Dynamo 5: A Post-Nuclear Family

Much in the same way that Wanted and Abyss took the same premise (a son discovers his recently-deceased father was the greatest supervillain of all time, and wanted him to take up the mantle) and went in completely different stylistic and thematic directions, so too did Jay Faerber’s Dynamo 5 and Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy.  The shared premise this time around is of a team of young superheroes banding together to fight evil after the death of their father figure.  But while The Umbrella Academy felt like a mix of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tanenbaums by way of Tim Burton and Jhonen Vasquez, Dynamo 5 is a more traditional teen superhero blend of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s Uncanny X-Men and Marv Wolfman & George Perez’s New Teen Titans, with an updated perspective and hints of prime-time family drama (perhaps a bit like Party of Five, though I never watched that show.) Dynamo 5 takes a refreshing premise and turns it into a top-notch superhero comic full of action, humor, teen angst and intrigue.

The story of Dynamo 5 begins as follows: When Captain Dynamo – superhero defender of Tower City – dies in a hotel bed under mysterious circumstances (lipstick-borne poison, a.k.a. the “goodnight kiss,”) it’s up to his widow Madeline Warner to protect the city in his stead.  She does this by using his little black address book (discovered after his death) to track down five of his illegitimate children (apparently Captain Dynamo had more secrets than his identity!) and turning them from a bunch of angsty teens into a formidable force for good.  It’s no easy task, however, and the five children (hereafter known as the Dynamo 5) are more interested in their social lives than in working together and saving Tower City.  Like any teen superhero team, these kids are prone to laziness, infighting and impulsive behavior.

What follows is an enjoyable romp through Tower City featuring giant robots, romantic intrigue, shocking scandals, mutant lizards, government cover-ups, and a surprise visit from dear old dad himself (or is it?)  It’s a comic book through and through, but it’s a great example of the difference between “textbook” and “generic.”  There’s nothing shockingly new in the way of concepts here (though it’s worth mentioning that Dynamo 5 pre-dates The Umbrella Academy by almost a year,) but everything feels fresh and fun.  The Incredibles tore ideas wholesale from the pages of Fantastic Four, but it managed to do it in a way that felt new and exciting.

Artist M.A. Asrar does a fantastic job of showcasing Tower City and its inhabitants, both civilian and super-powered.  The whole book has a crisp, clean feel to it, almost like a 1990s Saturday morning cartoon.  The colors are bright, the action is exciting, the tense bits are dark without being gloomy, and it all has a completely different feel from its premise-brother The Umbrella Academy.

The success of a team book is predicated on the success of its characters in the eyes of the fans, and the Dynamo 5 are quirky and distinct enough to win readers over.  While I wasn’t blown away by nondescript spandex uniforms or the straightforward one-word code names (both are characteristic of publisher Image Comics) the characters’ personalities are what make them stand out.  Stereotypes are toyed with (such as the character of Scatterbrain, a football player who develops telepathic powers) and the team even has a sensible reason for being multi-racial (apparently Captain Dynamo believed in affirmative action, if you get my meaning!) Each set of characters has its own relationship and its own dynamic, and by the end I was invested in the story enough to add Vol. 2 to my to-buy list. Hopefully this has inspired you to check out Vol. 1 on your own.  Considering its discounted “gateway” price (Vol. 1 collects the first seven issues for only $9.99) it’s really quite a bargain, and worth a good bit more!

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One Response

  1. […] Dynamo 5 Vol. 1: Post-Nuclear Family is the story of the rise of the Dynamo 5, Dynamo 5 Vol. 2: Moments of Truth is the story of their […]

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